Every other Monday, Youville residents gather to watch one of the most unique programs at Youville House: “Songs with Roy P.” Roy Privett, a Youville resident and the namesake of the program,established the event two years ago and continues to be the featured performer.
Recently he has added fellow resident performers to the ranks, and seen the concert grow into a full-fledged variety show. He now shares the bill with a singing partner, a comedian, an a capella soloist, a harmonica player, and occasional special guests. “It’s been great to bring more people in,” says Roy, reflecting on how the evening program has developed. “It was much more difficult when I was singing by myself, simply because I would get exhausted after 40 minutes. Now I have the chance to rest.”
An engineer, Roy got started by providing his own instrumental accompaniment using a MIDI software package called “Band-in-a-Box.” This software enabled him to sing for residents without a physical backup band. On concert nights, he would set up the laptop in the living room and run it through an amplification system. The laptop provided the instrumentation, and Roy provided the vocals.
“I have about 400 songs ready to go in this program,” says Roy. “And another 100 or so that I like but need to work on.”
The Origins of “Songs with Roy P”
“When I first moved in, there was a resident who played the piano on Monday evenings,” he recalls, “and a man who would sing along with her. I saw how much the residents enjoyed watching these two, and felt encouraged to join them.”
Before Roy had a chance to participate, the pianist moved from Youville and the informal evening concerts were cancelled. He began thinking of ways to perform by himself, and found the solution with “Band-in-a-Box.” After a successful trial concert, “Songs with Roy P” was included on the monthly calendar at Youville House.
As a solo performer, Roy’s concerts soon drew crowds that could compete with Youville’s most popular paid performers. More often than not, the living room would reach full capacity before Roy sang the first lines from his evening opener (usually a smooth rendition of “Nice & Easy”).
With so much enthusiasm among residents, it was only a matter of time before Judi, his first willingcollaborator, appeared on stage. “Judi would often harmonize with me from her seat,” Roy recalls. “One day someone in the audience said, ‘why don’t you get up there and join him?’ From there we started doing duets together.”
This paved the way for additional performers. One by one, people approached Roy and suggested lending their talents to his program. Here is a list of the current regular performers on “Songs with Roy P”:
Roy, sound technician, singer, producer–– Opens and closes the evening
Judi, singer–– Provides harmony and duets during Roy’s sets.
Al, sit-down comedian–– Known for his mellifluous baritone and past experience as an MC, Al’s comic routines delivered from the comfort of an armchair, have become a standard part of the evening. Al’s jokes cover a wide variety of topics.
Paul, singer–– Paul’s stripped-down, a capella versions of old Irish ballads are intimate and intense. They provide a contrast to Roy and Judi’s more casual, light-hearted repertoire.
Willie, harmonica player–– Armed with a chromatic harmonica, Willie began as an accompanying musician for Roy. He now has a slot all to himself. His medleys often lead to spontaneous vocal accompaniment from the audience as each new melody emerges.
The changing lineup of “Songs with Roy P” has come to reflect the diverse tastes of the Youville community in a setting made coherent by music. What began as one man’s hobby has turned into a cultural event unique to Youville House.
“Songs w/ Roy P” takes place every other Monday evening at Youville House at 7:00 PM.